Holmes Beach mayor advocates city manager government

One mayor of three on Anna Maria Island is putting out a call for better city management.

Holmes Beach Mayor Bob Johnson is ready to turn over the heavy lifting that goes with running a city with a $12 million-plus budget to a professional.

According to Johnson, development in Manatee County leaves Anna Maria Island as “the only beach in town.” He cites pressure on the beaches from developments at Lakewood Ranch and other proposed developments near Cortez Road and 75th Street.

For this, and other reasons, he believes Holmes Beach needs an experienced municipal administrator and, he says, he is not the man for the job.

With less than two years remaining on his second term, Johnson wants to see the city operating efficiently and smarter before he steps away and the time is short to accomplish his goal.

He proposes the creation of an ad hoc committee to examine the viability of moving to a council-manager form of government.

The city operates under a commission-mayor form of government. The five-member commission is legislative. It establishes policies and adopts ordinances, while the mayor, serving as administrator, carries out the codes and ordinances, and manages staff and budgets.

But Johnson, in his second term as mayor, wants commissioners to appoint a committee to examine long-range solutions for Holmes Beach, including the viability of moving to a council-manager form of government.

“When you go from a couple of hundred rental units to a thousand in a few years, and along with all of the building activities that are going on, just that whole wholesale shift in demographics makes a big change in the things you have to worry about in the city,” Johnson said.

Johnson said a committee working openly could best determine long-range solutions for the city.

“The volume and density of what this office is required to deal with is huge,” he said. “It still kind of has the same size that it’s had for a long time.”

Johnson proposed the idea during a Jan. 24 commission work session and he heard some criticism.

Commissioner Chair Judy Titsworth said the formation of another committee would burden city staff with more work.

“I think a mayor for the size of our city is still right,” she said.

But Johnson disagreed.

“I think you guys are missing the boat and the city will be worse off,” he said. “You can’t get cooperation with a novice sitting in here like me.”

Looking around at other beachside communities, Johnson said Holmes Beach is one of the “last hangers-on to this mode of running a municipal community.”

“There are more of them than not,” Johnson said.

Of the 37 beach communities with populations similar to Holmes Beach, 11 have a council-mayor form of government, according to Johnson’s noted.

“Everybody else has council-manager,” he said. “The 11 that have council-mayor are all small communities, except for Holmes Beach. Holmes Beach is the only one that has a big community.”

Included in the 11 are the cities of Anna Maria and Bradenton Beach.

“Three of those 11 are on this bloody island,” he said, adding the creation of an ad hoc committee “needs to be seriously addressed.”

“We’ll have those discussions, maybe even as early as March,” Johnson said. “To me, it’s a matter of where do you prioritize things. At some point and time, this should be a priority, so all I can do is keep working in that direction. And there’s a lot of people that say I like what you have and what you do.”

In order to accomplish the switch from commission-mayor to a city manager government, the electorate will have to approve a change to the charter.

And the next election is in November.

Island officials last discussed in earnest — and rejected — consolidation and a study by the three cities for employment of a city manager in 2005-06.

Commissioners were scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 14, at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive.

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